What if there’s another way to earn a Student Affairs Master’s Degree not based on class time or credit but rather through demonstrated knowledge and skills? How about a combination of both? The problem with not having a Master’s Degree in student affairs is that any chances of being considered for a functional area position, even entry-level, are very limited. There are student professionals who have gained practical skills, theoretical knowledge and competency through years of experience in the field but do not have this credential. This is an issue for professionals who may want to move up or transfer into a different area within student affairs.
By no means am I devaluing the education and experience gained through graduate programs. As a matter of fact, I still would love to attend. However, the cost and my full-time job limit my options. This is a constraint shared by those in my position. Personally, it’s not that I had never considered attending graduate school. That was actually my plan but circumstances led me to becoming a professional in student affairs right after getting my undergraduate degree.
Alternative professional development and informal learning methods outside graduate programs have enabled those like me to learn and study the historical and theoretical aspects of my profession. I have documented on this blog my approach to learning about student affairs theory and history via social media and my personal learning networks in addition to reading textbooks similar to those used in graduate programs. However, combined with professional experience, there is no current way to formally vet what I have learned. The question that comes to mind is how does one demonstrate competency, knowledge, and skills gained through professional experience against a established set of expectations like the ACPA and NASPA Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Practitioners? Who would be authorized to assess and issue the credential? A bigger question is when would competency-based degrees be more generally recognized and accepted in light of MOOC and other ways one can learn nowadays.